No one pre-law major guarantees entry into law school or ensures competent performance in law studies. Public justice, with its interdisciplinary approach, is a good choice for students preparing for law school because it stresses breadth of knowledge and intellectual flexibility.
Students in pre-law should concentrate efforts on understanding people and their cultures and on developing techniques of expression, communication and analysis. Students interested in pre-law should declare their interest as early as possible so that they can be assigned to an appropriate advisor. While all public justice interest areas require the formation of a close relationship between the student and their advisor, pre-law is an especially comprehensive educational experience requiring a full four years of planning and study. Therefore, each student should consult frequently with his or her advisor to plan and follow through on a program of study which will provide and refine essential skills.
What to study
Public justice majors preparing for law school especially need to learn about:
- U.S. and European history and cultures
- Western philosophy and political thought
- Western literature and language
- Psychological and sociological processes and structures
- Basic principles of science, mathematics, logic and computer science
- Basic principles of economics
Many of these subjects may be explored while fulfilling the general education requirements of the college, as well as through public justice core courses and electives.
Although there are no formal cognate requirements for public justice, students interested in pursuing pre-law studies should consider the following basic courses in addition to their PJ requirements:
- ECO 100 Principles of Macroeconomics
- ECO 101 Principles of Microeconomics
- ENG 102 Composition II (or appropriate composition course)
- ENG 202 Intermediate Composition
- HIS 202 U.S. History to 1865
- HIS 203 U.S. History from 1865 to Present
- PHL 101 Critical Thinking
- PHL 111 Formal Logic I
- PHL 205 Ethics I
- POL 205 American Government and Politics
- SOC 100 Introduction to Sociology
- SOC 250 Structure of American Society
In addition to these, Philosophy of Law (PHL 443), Ethics II (PHL 305) or Sociology of Law (SOC 448), courses in American or English literature and two years of a foreign language are highly recommended. Many of these courses also fulfill various general education requirements.
Probably the single most important skill you will need to be successful in law school is the ability to write well. We highly recommend that you take at least one composition course beyond English 102 and that you take several courses certified for upper division expository writing credit. Good writing requires practice, and this is the best way for you to get the training and practice in writing that is so vital to your later success in law school. Since close reading is also very necessary for success in law school, you should also take some literature courses, and a course in poetry may be the best training for close and careful reading. We also highly recommend a course in logic to help you to develop your reasoning and analysis skills.
One thing we especially do not recommend is that undergraduate pre-law students take many "law" courses, although one law course, such as Criminal Law (PBJ 365) or Constitutional Law (POL 345), is advisable to provide some further exposure to judicial opinions and case analysis. Instead, pre-law students should concentrate on gaining background in history, philosophy, politics and economics, and on developing vital basic skills in reading, analysis, writing and speaking. Intensive training in the law will come later in law school.
Students contemplating law school should plan to do their practicum fieldwork with a lawyer or judge. Law school is a great commitment of your time, effort and money, and you should make every effort to get some exposure to the everyday practice of law before you make your final decision. If you are thinking of going into law for the excitement, you need to see and experience routine law practice or you may be very disappointed.
Students interested in the practice of criminal law may also wish to consider the forensic science minor.
Law school admission
Above-average performance in a solid academic program is vital for entry into law school. Since admission to law school is very competitive, students with less than a 3.2 cumulative GPA are not likely to get into law school unless they have some other outstanding factor in their favor, such as a very high LSAT score. Be realistic! Law school admissions committees consider two main factors: GPA and LSAT score. Other factors, such as recommendation letters and extracurricular activities, generally play a very minor role in the admissions decision. If you are not a serious and competent student, you should choose another career! Consult the pre-law site for entry requirements for specific law schools.
Any student who is interested in law school can speak to the pre-law advisor, Professor Jason Zenor, who can provide current information and advice regarding application to specific law schools and taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).